The workplace is supposed to be an environment where an employee feels comfortable and is treated fairly. Even in an otherwise good work environment, an employee might become uncomfortable when they observe something unlawful occurring at a workplace. And because of this, he or she might decide to report these problems. While blowing the whistle is a legal action many brave employees to take, it is also a situation that could expose an employee to problems at work. For example, it could result in an unlawful termination of an employee as a form of retaliation for reporting illegal activities.
Employers in New York and elsewhere have certain expectations of their employees. Additionally, employees have specific expectations regarding their treatment in the workplace. These stem from employee rights and civil laws that protect employees from mistreatment, discrimination and wrongful discharge.
No one takes on a new job intending to leave it; however, many individuals in New York and elsewhere start and leave jobs each and every day. While this can happen for amicable reasons, this is unfortunately not always the case. In some situations, an employee may have left a job due to a hostile work environment, after an employee reported illegal activity or was terminated or disciplined illegally.
The employer-employee relationship can sometimes be strained by events occurring in the workplace. While employees in New York understand that employment at-will can be terminated at any time for any reasons, there is also the understanding that an employee cannot be fired for unlawful reasons. Nonetheless, employees and employers enter murky waters when accusations of discrimination occur and an employee must be let go because of it.
Obtaining and maintaining a job is important for New York residents. It is not only a source of income, but for many people a job is an achievement and a purpose in life. To be fired or let go from a job can be a life-altering and devastating event. But, what if an employee was not fired properly? What if a worker was terminated for grounds that are not legal? Such a situation would give rise to a wrongful termination action.
It is sometimes the case that after many years of hard work and dedication, an employee in New York can find themselves fired for reasons that are not their fault. If an employee does not have an employment contract, they are considered to be employed "at will." If so, the employer can fire a worker for any reason, so long as it is not an unlawful reason, such as discrimination or retaliation.
Many relationships between an employee and employer are considered "at-will", meaning that an employer may let go or fire an employee or an employee may quit at any time. Although an employer in such instances does not need to provide a reason for terminating the employee, there are instances where the termination is illegal in New York and other States across the nation.
In New York or New Jersey, unless you have an employment contract, you are likely working “at will” for your employer. This means that they may fire you or let you go without a valid reason. However, there are both local and federal laws which protect employees from wrongful termination such as retaliation or discrimination. For example, there are whistleblower protection laws in place to protect an employee who reports illegal activity or unsafe working conditions to authorities. You also may not be fired for attempting to form a union with fellow employees. And an employer may not discriminate on the grounds of race, age, gender, national origin, disability, sex, or religion.
In 1970, the United States, in conjunction with the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act created OSHA, or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, to ensure the wellbeing and safety of workers. The administration created and maintains standards for many lines of work, including construction, agriculture, maritime and general industry. In addition, OSHA makes certain that employers, including those in New York, comply with the General Duty Clause. This clause makes certain that workplaces stay "free of serious recognized hazards."
Sometimes the relationship between an employee and an employer can become less than ideal. It is important to understand that as an employee, you are granted certain rights to protect yourself, and your job, in the workplace. There are both state and federal laws in place, as well as government agencies in place to make certain that an employee's rights are maintained, and that a company is not taking advantage of its workers.